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Do Demons Exist?

When it was evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons. The whole town was gathered at the door. He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and he drove out many demons, not permitting them to speak because they knew him.

Do demons exist? Yes. Yes, of course. Accepting that, we infer angels exist, too.

How do we know these matterless creatures exist? Well, there is the direct and massive evidence of scripture, but that true testimmony is not likely to be accepted by people not of The Book. There have also throughout history been many (let us call them) sightings and interactions. These are dismissed as being the product of overwrought minds or are called mistakes or frauds. These charges are not always false.

Since these primary sources are in dispute, can we deduce the existence of demons and angels other ways? I think so. Here is an outline of that argument originated by St Thomas, understanding that a full treatment would require a book.

We start with the true premise that our intellects and wills are not material. They are not made of stuff. We have proved this many times, and will not take the time to do so here again. We are part spirit. Since our intellects are not material, they cannot corrupt as material things do. They must continue to exist after our bodies corrupt.

Since our intellects, our rational souls if you like, exist after our bodies turn to dust, it follows that intellects without bodies can exist. And if intellects without bodies can exist, creatures which are pure spirit can exist. This follows because it is not the creation of the body that causes the intellect to exist. The body, which is made of stuff, cannot cause that which is not made of stuff to exist. Therefore there must be some other cause of spiritual substances. What this cause is we can here be agnostic about. But that it exists we cannot.

Now humans obviously choose good and choose evil, at various times. (I use evil as we have been using in our Summa Contra Gentiles tour, as the absence of the good.) We do this by will and by intellect. Since we through our spiritual selves can choose good and evil, it would seem to follow that the creatures which are pure intellects can also choose good and evil. We can call these creatures angels and demons, depending on the choices that they have made.

The nature of angels and demons are not quite like ours. They do not have bodies, as shown, and so cannot learn as we do, first of all through our senses: they have no senses to learn with. We also discovered in Summa Contra Gentiles, and elsewhere, that angels and demons learn all at once, in a flash, as it were. As do we at times: but angels and demons always. This is not exactly pertinent to proving these creatures exist, but it does show that once they come into existence, by whatever cause, their natures are fixed permanently. You cannot talk an angel who chose good into now choosing the absence of the good, and you cannot convince a demon who chose the absence of the good into now choosing the good.

Why is that important? Because, of course, these creatures can interact with us because we are partly spiritual creatures. And do interact with us. You can have “intellectual discussions”, to stretch a term, with them. (I for many years willingly had the wrong conversations.) They cannot in general be seen or heard to have these conversations, because they possess nothing material to be seen or heard. But it does not follow that they can never be seen or heard; or rather, it does not follow that their effects can never be seen or heard. Here’s why.

Somehow our spiritual natures interact with our physical selves. How? I haven’t the slightest idea. I am like the caveman transported to an airport asked how these massive chunks of steel can lift themselves into the sky. I cannot say why it happens; I only know that it does. It should be obvious that because I do not know how is in no way proof that airplanes cannot fly.

I do not accept Descartes’s ghost in the machine, of course, but do insist on our partly non-material natures. Accepting this, it then follows that spirits can influence material things somehow. Thus it follows angels and demons can sometimes be “seen” and “heard’ when influencing material things. What are the extent of their powers to influence material things? Again, I do not know. It is not something that can be proven from first principles, like existence can, but has to be inferred from experience.

Experience can be used, too, because since we have proven the existence of demons and angels, and have inferred that they have the potential to influence material things, there is no difficulty accepting the potential of eyewitness reports. And if we can accept, on principle, the veracity of some eyewitness reports, we can accept the most reliable of eyewitness reports in scripture.

We must also accept that human-demon-angel interactions happen not in the distant “pre-scientific” past, but in the here-and-now. To you.

48 thoughts on “Do Demons Exist? Leave a comment

  1. RE “We start with the true premise that our intellects and wills are not material. They are not made of stuff. We have proved this many times, …”

    Bah humbug.

    RE “I do not accept …, but do insist on our partly non-material natures.”

    Since you insist, take that where it leads — male superiority/female inferiority. Here’s one expression of that official doctrine:

    “But because in these times this perfidy is more often found in women than in men, as we learn by actual experience, if anyone is curious as to the reason, we may add to what has already been said the following: that since they [women] are feebler both in mind and body, it is not surprising that they should come more under the spell of witchcraft.

    “For as regards INTELLECT, or the understanding of spiritual things, they [women] seem to be of a different nature from men; a fact which is vouched for by the logic of the authorities, backed by various examples from the Scriptures. Terence says: Women are INTELLECTUALLY like children. And Lactantius (Institutiones, III): No woman understood philosophy except Temeste.” [and, recently, the Blonde Bombshell!?!?]

    (Ref: http://www.malleusmaleficarum.org/downloads/MalleusAcrobat.pdf; all quotes here, below, also from this ancient centuries long best-seller)

    But we digress with that ancient bit of widely accepted doctrinal misogyny…

    Let us recall how human intellect relates to the rest of our mortal beings, again per official doctrine:

    “… for the sake of those who perhaps have not great quantity of books. It is there noted that three things are to be considered in man, which are directed by three celestial causes, namely, the act of the will, the act of the intellect, and the act of the body. The first of these is governed directly and soley by God, the second by an Angel, and the third by a celestial body.”

    Attentive readers will note the asserted ‘governance by a celestial body’ is none other than what we today call “astrology” and all that wrongly asserts. That was official Church doctrine (and was that ever formally rejected?). One supposes that if that’s not been rejected the Church is discretely trying to ignore it and pretend that it never was, one more historical footnote being buried in the secret Vatican archives…

    BRIGGS: “Because, of course, these creatures [demons] can interact with us because we are partly spiritual creatures. And do interact with us. You can have “intellectual discussions”, to stretch a term, with them. …”

    If that’s true, then formal doctrine has been wrong for centuries — because the interactions are indirect … unless one is a witch and summoned the creatures …or… if demons are invoking God’s will [and that is something they sometimes do]. Here’s one of the Church’s official explanations:

    “Moreover, that which has power over the motive has also power over the result which is caused by the motive. Now the motive of the will is something perceived through the sense or the intellect, both of which are subject to the power of the devil. For S. Augustine says in Book 83: This evil, which is of the devil, creeps in by all the sensual approaches; he places himself in figures, he adapts himself to colours, he attaches himself to sounds, he lurks in angry and wrongful conversation, he abides in smells, he impregnates with flavours and fills with certain exhalations all the channels of the understanding. Therefore it is seen that it is in the devil’s power to influence the will, which is directly the cause of sin.”

    “In the first place, nobody denies that certain harms and damages which actually and visibly afflict men, animals, the fruits of the earth, and which often come about by the influence of stars, may yet often be brought about by demons, when God permits them do to act. For as S. Augustine says in the 4th book Of the City of God: Demons may make use of both fire and air if God allow them so to do. And a commentator remarks: God punishes by the power of evil angels”

    Today we’ve got this quaint silly notion that things that pestilences affecting crops (“fruits of the earth”) are treatable by things like fertilizers, medicines and pesticides that kill microscopic insects. When in doctrinal fact it is the “influence of the stars” or demon-works permitted by God (if the latter, shame on us for interfering, one supposes). See the mess science has wreaked!

    Consider this gem of a lesson from Augustine (from outside Summa Contra), an odd point make surprisingly often, relating to a theme raised on occasion in this blog:

    “Moreover, S. Augustine, On the Trinity, III, says that devils do indeed collect human semen, by means of which they are able to produce bodily effects; but this cannot be done without some local movement, therefore demons can transfer semen which they have collected and inject it into the bodies of others.”

    Depending on single sources, however credible, as Briggs has with Augustine’s Summa Contra, deprives us of such gems of insight and wisdom as the above along with the tangled doctrinal complexities evolved to the present. Depending on and extrapolating from such single sources sets one up for making egregious heretical errors there’s so much to cross-reference, weigh and trade-off appropriately, and who really knows what’s officially being buried-to-forget in the Vatican archives. Which makes the Malleus Maleficarum (MM) a great reference — good summaries with citations so one can look up the various source material with laser focus, or if that’s not available at least learn what was considered reputable interpretation.

    For many of us, evaluating such doctrine and its analytical rationale — in its entirety rather than cherry-picking bits & pieces that comport with one’s pre-established views — is certainly “eye-opening.” And, certainly worthy of taking seriously for the insights provided in the motives underlying historical events motivated by such beliefs … but rather hard to believe after science has revealed just how credible such viewpoints really are.

  2. The Hammer of the Witches was not official doctrine. It was written by a crank who was barred from or driven out of several cities by their bishops. A better sense of “official doctrine” may be had not from heretical documents but from the Catechism and from the Fathers. A sampling thereof:

    Catechism of the Catholic Church (2116) “All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to ‘unveil’ the future. Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone”

    Then there are writings of the Traditions, a few of which are:

    Tatian the Syrian, (Address to the Greeks 8 [A.D. 170]) “[Under the influence of demons] men form the material of their apostasy. For, having shown them a plan of the position of the stars, like dice-players, they introduce Fate, a flagrant injustice. For the judge and the judged are made so by Fate, the murderers and the murdered, the wealthy and the needy—[all are] the offspring of the same Fate”

    *in re Tatian: Who today are more likely to deny free will and equate “the judge and the judged,” “the murderers and the murdered,” and assign the differences to “chance.” In them are the Late Modern heirs of the ancient astrologers.

    Hippolytus (Refutation of All Heresies 4:37 [A.D. 228]). “How impotent [the astrologers’] system is for comparing the forms and dispositions of men with names of stars! For we know that those originally conversant with such investigations have called the stars by names given reference to propriety of signification and facility for future recognition. But what similarity is there of these [constellations] with the likeness of animals, or what community of nature are regards conduct and energy, that one should allege that a person born in Leo should be irascible [like a lion] and that one born in Virgo moderate [like a virgin] or one born in Cancer wicked [like a crab]?”

    re Hippolytus. A bit of common sense mockery.

    Athanasius (Easter Letter 39:1 [A.D. 367]). “They [astrologers] have fabricated books which they call books of [astrological] tables, in which they show stars, to which they have given the names of saints. And therein of a truth they have inflicted on themselves a double reproach, those who have written such books, because they have perfected themselves in a lying and contemptible science [astrology], and as to the ignorant and simple, they have led them astray by evil thoughts concerning the right faith established in truth and upright in the presence of God”

    Basil the Great (The Six Days Work 6:5 [A.D. 370]) “[T]hose who overstep the borders, making the words of Scripture [‘And God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens . . . and let them be for signs and for seasons,”’ (Gen. 1:14)] their apology for the art of casting nativities [horoscopes], pretend that our lives depend upon the motion of the heavenly bodies, and thus the Chaldeans read in the planets that which will happen to us. By these very simple words ‘let them be for signs,’ they understand neither the variations of the weather nor the change of seasons; they only see in them, at the will of their imagination, the distribution of human destinies. What do they say in reality? When the planets cross in the signs of the zodiac, certain figures formed by their meeting give birth to certain destinies, and others produce different destinies”.

    Augustine(Confessions 7:6:8–10 [A.D. 400]) “Now I had also repudiated the lying divination and impious absurdities of the astrologers . . . [and] I turned my thoughts to those that are born twins, who generally come out of the womb so near one to another that the small distance of time between them (however much force [astrologers] may contend that it has in the nature of things) cannot be noted by human observation or be expressed in those [planetary] figures which the astrologer is to examine that he may pronounce the truth. Nor can they be true; for looking into the same figures he must have foretold the same of Esau and Jacob, whereas the same did not happen to them. He must therefore speak falsely, or if truly, then, looking into the same figures he must not speak the same things. Not then by art but by chance would he speak truly.”

    in re Augustine: Note the scientific approach. If astrology were true, the same fates await twins. Yet, they often wind up very differently disposed. Therefore, astrology is not true.

    Later, Nicole d’Oresme, bishop of Liseaux, showed by what we today would call fractional exponents that the positions of the stars will never be the same twice and that astrology is therefore impotent to make forecasts. He said that astrology was useful for predictions — of the seasons and the weather! — but not of the fates of people.

  3. Mr. Briggs maybe you already know this – St Thomas places the habitat demons in the upper atmosphere – above 29,050 ft or 15 cubits above the mountain tops.

    Question 64. The punishment of the demons Whether our atmosphere is the demons’ place of punishment?

    “We must also accept that human-demon-angel interactions happen not in the distant “pre-scientific” past, but in the here-and-now. ”

    And yet modern men invades the habitat of demons of the Darksome atmosphere by flying on commercial flights above 30,000 ft 24/7 – and we have been doing this for over 70+ years.

    So its a given that there is increased human-demon interactions. This may explain increased demonic possessions.

    Here is the scary part “Thus it follows angels and demons can sometimes be “seen” and “heard’ when influencing material things. What are the extent of their powers to influence material things? Again, I do not know.”

    Things may heat up a bit in the upper Atmosphere (+29,050 ft) between the Demons of the Darksome Atmosphere Vs. men flying on Airplanes in the Demon’s habitat…..

  4. “We start with the true premise that our intellects and wills are not material.”

    There isn’t any evidence to support this claim. The end.

  5. “We start with the true premise that our intellects and wills are not material.” … “They must continue to exist after our bodies corrupt. ”

    Does this follow? An immaterial intellect or will that existed only as an emergent property of a material body would not so continue.

  6. gareth,

    Yes, it follows, because an “emergent property” is a property of the material substance, and is therefore material itself. Our intellects are strictly non-material.

  7. “Emergent properties” is not a solution to things not understood. It’s a place holder term and in IT where computers are spoken of as smart or considered to have intelligence approaching that of a human the analogy is reflected backwards erroneously to describe human intellect.
    The human mind is not merely the product of computational effects as is the case with man made machines that does not possess life.
    (It crappies are used to being paid megabucks to BS for a living. Just like statisticians, they believe their own BS in the end.)
    Any statisticians or IT folks reading: If I’ve caused even such as a moment’s discomfort resulting from that remark I’m not a bit sorry.

  8. I can edit too!

    “Emergent properties” is not a solution to things not understood. It’s a place holder term and in IT where computers are spoken of as smart or considered to have intelligence approaching that of a human the analogy is reflected backwards erroneously to describe human intellect.
    The human mind is not merely the product of computational effects as is the case with man made ‘Smart’ machines that are lifeless.

    (“I.T” chappies are used to being paid megabucks to BS for a living. Just like statisticians, they believe their own BS in the end.)
    Any statisticians or IT folks reading:
    If I’ve caused even such as a moment’s discomfort resulting from the reading of that remark, I’m not a bit sorry.

  9. Yes, “Malleus Maleficarum” was written by the Catholic clergyman Heinrich Kramer and first published in 1487. The Papal Approbation, usually appended to the book, was obtained by the crafty Kramer by cunning deception. It has never been accepted by the Catholic Church as representative of its theology or discipline; indeed, Kramer was euphemistically described by one of his contemporary bishops as a “senile old man”. I have a copy of MM and I have read it; it is a spine-chilling fantasy.

    It was later sized with glee by some Fundamentalist sects and there are recorded some 635 poor women burned to death as a result; mostly in Northern Europe and North America. One would suspect that it’s more likely that it was the burn-ers rather than the burn-ed that were possessed.

    Evil is the lack of some due good, as such it is a “nothing” that has no power to do anything (except in contemporary superstitions where “nothing” can turn itself into “everything”). Therefore, for anything to “happen” (like an evil act) there must be someTHING to cause it. In the case of demons there must be some degree of power, intellect and life (which are all “goods”) but which are directed toward perversion and destruction (which are evils).

  10. According to Aquinas, Good is the cause of evil.

    Certainly. Since an evil is a lack or deficiency in a good, then without the good there can be no deficiency in it. As for example, death is a deficiency of life. It is possible to conceive of life without death, but it is logically impossible to conceive of death without life.

    But of course, keep in mind that “cause” meant something broader and more multifaceted in them thar days than in the Late Modern age.

  11. We start with the true premise that our intellects and wills are not material. They are not made of stuff.

    Because our intellects are not material it does not follow that they are independent of any material. Motion too is not material but if we are to travel we require a means to do so. It is just the same with thinking, it is not material but requires a physical body to be able to. There is not a shred of evidence to support the idea that a disembodied soul exists. This is not to say there is no soul but that rational argument wont get you there.

  12. Ken writes (rather a lot) “Since you insist, take that where it leads — male superiority/female inferiority.”

    Within those two categories exist subcategories, for instance, I am superior because I define it that way. It is possible that you define yourself to be superior.

    “Here’s one expression of that official doctrine:”

    Interesting, but with thousands of Christian denominations perhaps you exaggerate the office.

    “But we digress with that ancient bit of widely accepted doctrinal misogyny…”

    It is unlikely that it was a digression. How long have you waited for an opportunity to wave your virtue flag?

    “Let us recall how human intellect relates to the rest of our mortal beings, again per official doctrine”

    As there is not, nor can there be universal official doctrine, perhaps you would try again being more specific in who is bounded to that particular official doctrine? A person that is not bound to that office is also not bound to its doctrine nor obligated to defend it.

    “Attentive readers will note the asserted ‘governance by a celestial body’ is none other than what we today call astrology and all that wrongly asserts.”

    Strange; I was very attentive but I did not read it that way. Fortunately I have YOU to be attentive on my behalf!

    “If that’s true, then formal doctrine has been wrong for centuries”

    There’s always that possibility.

    “Today we’ve got this quaint silly notion that things that pestilences affecting crops (“fruits of the earth”) are treatable by things like fertilizers, medicines and pesticides that kill microscopic insects.”

    You could be a bit more precise with the “we” part, but yes, chemicals are effective on things that are affected by chemicals.

    “See the mess science has wreaked!”

    Atomic bombs come to mind.

    Consider this gem of a lesson from Augustine (from outside Summa Contra), an odd point make surprisingly often, relating to a theme raised on occasion in this blog:

    “…therefore demons can transfer semen which they have collected and inject it into the bodies of others.”

    That seems a bit unlikely. Your mileage probably varies.

    “who really knows what’s officially being buried-to-forget in the Vatican archives.”

    Probably Susan, but she’s not saying so there you go.

    “but rather hard to believe after science has revealed just how credible such viewpoints really are.”

    Belief and viewpoints are irrelevant in science; it has nothing to contribute to, or take away from, either.

  13. Jim Ross says: ” This is not to say there is no soul but that rational argument wont get you there.”

    Unless it does. It’s all in the premises or assumptions. Aquinas seems to starts with the assumption that he exists, but once did not, hence he was caused to exist, and thus there must be that which causes things to exist, and that thing itself must have been caused to exist, all the way back to a first cause that itself has no cause. That would seem irrational but you must start somewhere. At any rate, let us call this self-caused thing God, and “it is proved”.

    The alternative seems to be that there is no first, but how can that be? An endless succession, “turtles all the way down”, where does the story start? Since we cannot do anything with logic if that be the case, we *ignore* that branch and go with “self created” since that creates a starting point and a transcendental event capable of creating other transcendental events.

    It is a bit like proving 2=3. Let 2/0=infinity, and 3/0=infinity. Since infinity=infinity, therefore 2=3. I abuse your knowledge, or lack thereof, of mathematics since more properly 2/0 is undefined; it is not infinity. But to a person with some algebra the proof seems reasonable.

    So it is with pretty much any religion.

  14. Hans Erren writes: “We all know that Aquinas doesn’t write what he writes.”

    And there you have it, God exists, and his name is Hans Erren, a being that knows what we all know.

    Or maybe not. I don’t know that Aquinas didn’t write what he wrote. In fact, the sentence seems to make no logical sense. You seem to be suggesting that Aquinas had a scribe taking down his words. Would it make a difference?

  15. Joy writes “Emergent properties is not a solution to things not understood.”

    Trivially true; it is not a solution, it is a word to describe phenomenon arising out of complexity where the phenomenon was not designed yet it exists. In a deterministic computer that processes a succession of instructions, it is unlikely that anything emerges that wasn’t designed, other than bugs of course.

    A neural network isn’t determinisitic. It would be astonishingly difficult to program a neural network; they are *trained* and the interactions of these trainings can be complex to the point of being not obviously predictable. It’s still a machine but the only way to predict it is with another one of even greater complexity.

    “The human mind is not merely the product of computational effects as is the case with man made ‘Smart’ machines that are lifeless.”

    So you believe; but proving it is one of the difficult challenges. Suppose you had only 10 neurons, they can connect to each other in many more ways than 10. When you get to billions of neurons, the number of possible interconnections, and what they might do, is beyond imagining.

    “Any statisticians or IT folks reading: If I’ve caused even such as a moment’s discomfort resulting from the reading of that remark, I’m not a bit sorry.”

    Nor have you caused any discomfort for you’d have to know something about IT to even be insulting. It seems nearly certain that within a decade computers will pass the “Turing test” where the computer will believe that it is alive, will act alive, will probably start demanding legal rights. But is it *really* alive? That’s a question that requires a meaningful definition! Already there’s floating, particularly in Europe, the idea that sex robots have legal rights and can say “no”. To me that’s just more European collective insanity but that’s what happens when people don’t understand their own lives.

  16. I have encountered good and evil. I do not accept that evil is simply the absence of good; it is a force of its own, negative in sign but with a magnitude. A rock is neither evil nor good. It’s just a rock, it has no intention. For a thing to be evil it must have malicious intention and a capacity to act on that intention.

  17. For a thing to be evil it must have malicious intention and a capacity to act

    Because of the way words have been messed up over the centuries, this is the impression most folks have of “evil.” It is the Hollywood evil of the monster waiting on the other side of the door. It is also an opportunity to accuse those who have stuck with the original definitions and usages of “changing” the meaning.

    Extended discussion here: http://14.139.206.50:8080/jspui/bitstream/1/619/1/Aquinas,%20Thomas%20-%20On%20Evil.pdf

    When we say that a rock (assuming it is a “thing” to begin with) is a “good” rock, we mean that it possesses the perfections of all the characteristics of a rock (relatively hard, made of minerals). If it were made of marshmallow, or of vegetation, it would not be a good rock. We might even say it is a bad rock; that is “bad” for those ends toward which rocks are directed. (Although it may be the entire rock cycle itself that needs to be looked at.) Details vary for different species of rock, but that’s the gist of it.

    The Latin adjective malus means both “bad” and “evil” (and also “wicked, ugly, and unlucky”). Curiously, as a second declension feminine noun, it means “apple tree.” (Is that how Latin speakers associated apple trees with evil?) As a second declension masculine noun, it means “mast; beam; tall pole, upright pole; standard, prop, staff.” A nice little nexus of connotations.

  18. I concur that a rock can be “bad” while not being “evil”. Bad pertains to fitness for purpose, in this example I suggest the suitability or goodness of a rock to be used to help built a house, or bridge foundation, or in the concrete mix for a dam, or capable of holding a piton for climbing purposes. In this case it will always be the consequence of a judgement by a judge, person capable of making judgements of good or bad as regards fitness to purpose.

    Evil is also a judgement, but where I see the distinction is that evil can exist only in actors, it speaks not only to action but to intention, and acts contrary to “good”. It may be coincidental but it is interesting that “evil” is simply “live” backwards.

  19. Joy writes “Emergent properties is not a solution to things not understood.”
    Trivially true;
    Thanks, I know.

    “ it is not a solution, Right, it’s not a solution! That’s kind of what I said. You meant It isn’t intended as a solution and I know that too. I chose the word carefully.

    Neural networks is the obvious example and what I was referring to since I do know something about IT and the sort of shenanigans that goes on within the discipline from programers to architects, engineers and “proper scientists”!
    You don’t have to work in the field to know about it.

    “…arising out of complexity where the phenomenon was not designed yet it exists. “ Yep, that’s the emergent property for you.

    In a deterministic computer that processes a succession of instructions, it is unlikely that anything emerges that wasn’t designed, other than bugs of course. “
    yes but the next part is where I disagree.

    A neural network isn’t deterministic.” Oh yes it is. just because it can’t be predicted does not mean that it can defy laws of nature. Thresholds and summation and effects all chaotically creating an effect are deterministic if that term means what I think it does.

    “It would be astonishingly difficult to program a neural network;
    they are *trained* and the interactions of these trainings can be complex to the point of being not obviously predictable. It’s still a machine but the only way to predict it is with another one of even greater complexity.”
    It’s not clear why you or anyone would think that being difficult or complex or unpredictable means it has attained another property. An emergent one which is special enough to make it alive or whatever goalpost is being offered as constituting a human mind.

    “The human mind is not merely the product of
    computational effects as is the case with man made ‘Smart’ machines that are lifeless.”

    …So you believe; “ yes I do! I’ve worked with people who own human brains and bodies. They are not computers. Nor does the brain function like one. I often wished it was.

    but proving it is one of the difficult challenges. “
    Yes, or we wouldn’t have anybody disagreeing about mind and it’s validity as what is really real and what is alive, as if it were a difficult concept.

    “Suppose you had only 10 neurons, they can connect to each other in many more ways than 10…” No. They connect in the same way each time. You are speaking of combinations and multiplication. They fire for different reasons and sometimes apparently fire when they “shouldn’t.”

    “ When you get to billions of neurons, the number of possible interconnections, and what they might do, is beyond imagining.”
    You are telling me something I already know of course but it doesn’t help just to say it’s complex therefore making something complex will render something of the same value, nature or effect. It is as I said, to be mixed up about the analogy in the first place.

    If engineers want to tinker that’s fine. If they come up with something useful, even better. They are still just playing with tools, building a Frankenstein. A prosthetic mind for the mindless, whoever they are.

    “Any statisticians or IT folks reading: If I’ve caused even such as a moment’s discomfort resulting from the reading of that remark, I’m not a bit sorry.”
    “Nor have you caused any discomfort for you’d have to know something about IT to even be insulting. “
    So you were bit insulted then since you needed to claim I knew nothing and therefore can’t possibly be insulting! I know rather more than you apparently assume or imagine but there’s nothing new there.

    “It seems nearly certain that within a decade computers will pass the “Turing test” where the computer will believe that it is alive, will act alive, will probably start demanding legal rights.”
    How will they know what the computer believes! Will they believe what it tells them? Would you?

    Leaving out your prediction as to what you believe will transpire, It might seem that way but it will not be the case because it is impossible. Even if you or others were to believe it with all your heart it won’t make it true that the machine actually believes anything let alone thinks.

    As for robot talk, well, again, if people want something to be true it might drive their endeavours of invention, give them a reason to go to work, it might pay well if funded by public money, but will not alter the truth of the claim of ‘intelligent life’ created by man. It will be illusion only. It will not pass the test for actual natural intellect. It will have been manipulated to do what it does by men having tinkered for long enough to create an effect. Anything it does will be the product of that tinkering and not be anything but the result of what it is programmed to do. If programming is used in the sense of design manufacture, rather than a list of code. Complexity and unpredictability is one trivial feature of the human mind and a feature of other phenomenon which are not living tissue.

  20. “Emergent properties” do not require complexity. They are what were once known as “formal causes.” They denote in this sense properties of a whole that are not found in the parts. Thus, under normal conditions, H2O is in the aggregate is “wet” even though neither H nor O are wet. Similarly, manufactured assemblies have properties that none of the components have.

    However, as often used by laypeople, it is used as a synonym for “then magic happens.”

  21. Yair, good one, YOS.
    It’s not often I agree with our Joy, but in this case I, substantially, do agree.
    You are trying to dissipate the issue with pernickety irrelevancies.

    As I have contended many times before; the brain is the physical organ that connects the metaphysical mind with the physical world of sense and motor (response). The physical composition or properties of water has no relevance to the question of whether perverse metaphysical entities or influences exist.

    Us poor laypeople should be intimidated by yous pontificating from your ivory towers but some of us are not easily talked out of “commonsense”.

  22. “Emergent properties” do not require complexity.”
    Nor do I think it was claimed or defined in that way. In the particular example here of artificial intelligence from neural networks it does apply. It’s a kind of mixing chemicals together to see what happens and then making discoveries as a result. That’s what their tinkering can be compared to.
    A chord is an emergent property of three notes played together. No point saying it isn’t because it is exactly the property that emerges from playing three notes. It is still an example of the way such effects are rendered. I.e. taking multiple factors together. No need to defend into speak of efficient causes and so forth. Mechanisms can be explained in themselves without requiring a classification system of naming. Of course you have also previously agreed that there is always more than one way to describe cause. There are alternative explanations which are still absolutely true.

  23. Having been an official exorcist for 5 years, my position is that unless you have witnessed a few of these, what you say is merely your opinion. You don’t have all the facts necessary to make a proper response.

  24. Michael 2:
    Bang on with this one, I was distracting with disagreeing about a triviality.

    ” I have encountered good and evil. I do not accept that evil is simply the absence of good; it is a force of its own, negative in sign but with a magnitude. A rock is neither evil nor good. It’s just a rock, it has no intention. For a thing to be evil it must have malicious intention and a capacity to act on that intention.”

  25. Thanks for that link, YOS. It’s a beauty!

    Perhaps Rev. Smolensky would indulge us with just a few of the facts necessary to make a proper response.

  26. “A neural network isn’t deterministic. Oh yes it is. “

    At the moment of its construction, it is impossible to say what the neural network will decide to do, for it has not been programmed to do anything, and thus it is not deterministic; although if you, the programmer and trainer, are deterministic then ultimately so will be all of your creations.

    In theory all computers, even those mimicking neural networks, could be predicted (deterministic) but careful reading of my entire comment shows that I specify the existence of yet another computer superior to that whose programming you wish to determine (discover). This then supposes one yet superior to it, and so on.

    The human brain is also theoretically deterministic; everything it does is determined by neurons. But those neurons can apparently detach or attach with a bit of help from various chemicals; perhaps this is your area of expertise. At any rate, quite apart from the existence of a spirit or soul, everything you DO is motivated entirely by synapses and thus is deterministic.

    But that whole argument simply moves the goalpost; is the mind of a spirit also deterministic? Entire religions hinge upon the answer, or proposed answer, to that question. What motivates God himself? Is he deterministic?

    I believe in free will in the spirit and thus more or less also in body; heavily influenced of course by the needs of the body. By that, I believe it is necessary to be able to surprise even God himself by making a choice unforseen and unforseeable; for any other outlook seems bleak and completely pointless.

    But regardless of that, I make my choices believing I have free will, and am therefore responsible for my choices. Should it happen God already knows my choices, well, how different is that of my own children making their own choices, when I have a pretty good idea what those choices are going to be? They are frequently not wise choices, but they choose for themselves, and experience the consequences, and that is the purpose of life.

  27. Rev. S. Smolenski writes “Having been an official exorcist for 5 years…”

    An interesting comment. From whose office did you obtain this appointment?

    “what you say is merely your opinion.”

    That is true of all comments on all blogs on the internet (although there may well be facts supporting claims and opinions).

    “You don’t have all the facts necessary to make a proper response.”

    What makes you different in this regard? Who are you to judge what is a proper response?

  28. God is everywhere and in everything.

    Therefore there can be no hell or demons other than in the mind and hearts of the people that reject god and believe in false prophets which includes all religions on earth

  29. Sylvain Allard writes “there can be no hell or demons other than in the mind and hearts of the people that reject god and believe in false prophets which includes all religions on earth”

    Oh the delicious irony of a false prophet denouncing other false prophets.

  30. Michael,

    Then where do these things live, if they are real?

    They are not god so they can’t live in is realm, which let them only our realm to live. We would witness them if they were around.

  31. Sylvain Allard writes “which let them only our realm to live. We would witness them if they were around.”

    There is no “we”. Still, your assumption is basically agreeable and that is how those who know about such things have knowledge. It is interesting to me how few people seem to sense either good or evil.

  32. “A neural network isn’t deterministic. Oh yes it is. “

    Ho hum! More predictable, superstitious, irrational magic where a metaphysical controller spontaneously generates itself out of crude matter.

    Any moderately honest observer can see that any bodily organ (of which the brain is one) must have that metaphysical “thing” or “stuff” we call life to order crude physics and chemistry into the systems that cause any organism at all to develop and function. It doesn’t matter if the organism is a virus or a virtuoso; it must have life from antecedent life to be able to do anything at all but decay.

    You can take as many brains as you like and put them into a great blender but they will not spontaneously turn into a super intellect…. only a super stench as they degrade into their simplest chemical components.

  33. Oldavid writes “More predictable, superstitious, irrational magic where a metaphysical controller spontaneously generates itself out of crude matter.”

    I would like to honor you with a reply but it is not clear to me what you mean by what you wrote.

    A hint is provided by “predictable”, or in the language we have recently been using, “deterministic”. Many (maybe all) human correspondence is predictable or deterministic. Some say all; I have no way of knowing.

    “it must have life from antecedent life to be able to do anything at all but decay.”

    I do not agree with your assertion. It should be self evident that the first life has no antecedent life.

    “You can take as many brains as you like and put them into a great blender but they will not spontaneously turn into a super intellect….”

    Oh? When and where exactly did you try this; and is your experience with such things to be taken as representative of anyone else’s similar experiment and experience? Perhaps a blender isn’t the best way to join minds.

  34. At the moment of its construction, it is impossible to say what the neural network will decide to do, for it has not been programmed to do anything, and thus it is not deterministic

    When I was shown neural networks during a visit to old Bell Labs, back in the day, the engineers knew quite well what the network would do. The one, I recollect, aimed an artillery piece, so they knew it would fire a gun and hit or miss a target. The other was to design circuit boards. The desired outcomes were “clamped” to the output nodes of the network and back propagation was used to adjust the hidden layers. The tutor program would (in effect) say “warmer or colder” and walk it in to the desired output.

    What the engineers did not know beforehand was the configuration of hidden nodes that would ultimately succeed in the goal.

    This is actually a fair model of free will in that the end is fixed — to hit the target in the first nn case; to achieve the Good in the case of the Will — but that the means to achieve those ends are indeterminate.

  35. A neural network isn’t deterministic. Oh yes it is. “
    (depends what deterministic means, as I said).

    Rest assured your comment was read and given due consideration. The superior computer isn’t necessary to make the point which was very basic. I mentioned ‘if deterministic means what I think it does’ let me say some more and perhaps you’ll see the point.

    let deterministic mean whatever you say or the dictionary says too, finally, that’s not the point of interest.

    I say for every material operation of a complex computer or simple dice throw, there is a definite cause of it’s output or resulting number which if known would make the outcome totally predictable. (Which is also nonsense probability talk because you don’t predict what you know, forget that.)

    Whether humans can know the necessary in advance is a separate thing. So when you say not deterministic you mean cannot be determined! That’s fine.
    See if you can now understand what I mean with that in mind. There’s no argument here.

    Same to Oldavid, A neural network for the purpose of this discussion is a computer not a brain functioning within the body. Neural networks on their own or brains on their own are missing vital organs of function and therefore cannot be compared to a living human with a brain and a mind.

    As to cells in the brain regarding electrochemical operations and what is known to occur. There is Immense complexity overlaying the metaphysical mind. Ignoring the mind does not solve the immense complexity which is already beyond predictability. That mind governs the system is a marvel and makes the case for itself. By this I mean the case for the supernatural and therefore, God.

    I think some readers become sensitised to certain words and groups of words which affects their ability to comprehend or trust another’s mind.
    That’s what I think.

    Everybody guesses what others think instead of just asking.
    So much assumption. If a person wants to treat a person like a scientific proposition of enquiry, they don’t assume anything. Or they assume as little as possible. That’s impossible for the human mind because minds predict all the time and that’s why assumption is impossible to eradicate.
    People are not computers.
    Computers are not people.

  36. @ Michael “I do not agree with your assertion. It should be self evident that the first life has no antecedent life.”
    Which is what I have been saying all along as regard the necessary Uncaused First Cause. The quip is (obviously) intended to emphasise that life, or intellect, or any other metaphysical “thing” or “stuff” does not spontaneously arise from any kind of chemical soup no matter how abundant all the necessary chemicals are.

    @ Joy “Same to Oldavid, A neural network for the purpose of this discussion is a computer not a brain functioning within the body.”

    But a neural network does not “network” without, at least, the metaphysical “thing” called life to order the biological processes that result in that “networking”.

  37. ““But a neural network does not “network” without, at least, the metaphysical “thing” called life to order the biological processes that result in that “networking”. “

    That particular kind of networking, yes.
    You can take a heart and make it pump in the right electrolyte solution. Hearts have inherent rhythmicity by virtue of their muscle tissue type. This is just manipulation of nature. So is neural networking. I don’t see any threat to the questions of soul or mind just because cells of any kind can be manipulated. Life as a metaphysical ‘entity’ is not superseded by such manipulation.”
    Nor is mind or spirit created by neural networking. I don’t see where your disagreement is.

  38. Sylvain Allard asked: “where do these things live, if they are real? They are not god so they can’t live in is realm, which let them only our realm to live. We would witness them if they were around.”

    St Thomas tells you where demons reside in our lower atmosphere over 29,50ft or 15 cubits above the mountain tops – you know – the same atmosphere where planes fly 24/7 – do you fly? maybe you’ll a demon one day…

    Question 64. The punishment of the demons

    Whether our atmosphere is the demons’ place of punishment? https://tinyurl.com/yacxa3tn

    Objection 1. It would seem that this atmosphere is not the demons’ place of punishment. For a demon is a spiritual nature. But a spiritual nature is not affected by place. Therefore there is no place of punishment for demons.

    Objection 2. Further, man’s sin is not graver than the demons’. But man’s place of punishment is hell. Much more, therefore, is it the demons’ place of punishment; and consequently not the darksome atmosphere.

    Objection 3. Further, the demons are punished with the pain of fire. But there is no fire in the darksome atmosphere. Therefore the darksome atmosphere is not the place of punishment for the demons.

    On the contrary, Augustine says (Gen. ad lit. iii, 10), that “the darksome atmosphere is as a prison to the demons until the judgment day.”

    I answer that, The angels in their own nature stand midway between God and men. Now the order of Divine providence so disposes, that it procures the welfare of the inferior orders through the superior. But man’s welfare is disposed by Divine providence in two ways: first of all, directly, when a man is brought unto good and withheld from evil; and this is fittingly done through the good angels. In another way, indirectly, as when anyone assailed is exercised by fighting against opposition. It was fitting for this procuring of man’s welfare to be brought about through the wicked spirits, lest they should cease to be of service in the natural order. Consequently a twofold place of punishment is due to the demons: one, by reason of their sin, and this is hell; and another, in order that they may tempt men, and thus the darksome atmosphere is their due place of punishment.

    Now the procuring of men’s salvation is prolonged even to the judgment day: consequently, the ministry of the angels and wrestling with demons endure until then. Hence until then the good angels are sent to us here; and the demons are in this dark atmosphere for our trial: although some of them are even now in hell, to torment those whom they have led astray; just as some of the good angels are with the holy souls in heaven. But after the judgment day all the wicked, both men and angels, will be in hell, and the good in heaven.

    Reply to Objection 1. A place is not penal to angel or soul as if affecting the nature by changing it, but as affecting the will by saddening it: because the angel or the soul apprehends that it is in a place not agreeable to its will.

    Reply to Objection 2. One soul is not set over another in the order of nature, as the demons are over men in the order of nature; consequently there is no parallel.

    Reply to Objection 3. Some have maintained that the pain of sense for demons and souls is postponed until the judgment day: and that the beatitude of the saints is likewise postponed until the judgment day. But this is erroneous, and contrary to the teaching of the Apostle (2 Corinthians 5:1): “If our earthly house of this habitation be dissolved, we have a house in heaven.” Others, again, while not admitting the same of souls, admit it as to demons. But it is better to say that the same judgment is passed upon wicked souls and wicked angels, even as on good souls and good angels.

    Consequently, it must be said that, although a heavenly place belongs to the glory of the angels, yet their glory is not lessened by their coming to us, for they consider that place to be their own; in the same way as we say that the bishop’s honor is not lessened while he is not actually sitting on his throne. In like manner it must be said, that although the demons are not actually bound within the fire of hell while they are in this dark atmosphere, nevertheless their punishment is none the less; because they know that such confinement is their due. Hence it is said in a gloss upon James 3:6: “They carry fire of hell with them wherever they go.” Nor is this contrary to what is said (Luke 8:31), “They besought the Lord not to cast them into the abyss”; for they asked for this, deeming it to be a punishment for them to be cast out of a place where they could injure men. Hence it is stated, “They [Vulg. ‘He’] besought Him that He would not expel them [Vulg. ‘him’] out of the country” (Mark 5:10).